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    Teams Glad to Have Tennis, Destination Away from Hilton Head Island

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    October 8, 2016 03:58 PM

    Story and photos by Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

    SC_HHI_damage_100816Tolley_Pam_SC_hurricane_100
    Pamela Tolley returns a forehand at Baylor School.

    Captain Brian Tolley couldn’t make the trip. When you’re the editor-in-chief of the hometown newspaper with an office in the path of Hurricane Matthew, you stay on the job.

    Tolley’s 18 & Over 7.0 team made the trip to Chattanooga, said his wife, Pamela, shortly after getting off the court Saturday. But Brian was working on storm coverage for The Island Packet, the main source of news for Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort and other areas of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Team members had to leave Brian behind, along with their homes, possessions and, in some cases, close friends.

    Brian also captains South Carolina’s 40 & Over 7.0 playing in the championships, making his absence doubly disheartening.

    Brian left town, too, but is now headquartered at a sister publication in Columbia, Pamela reported. Three Island Packet reporters remained on the island but could only go out and get stories when accompanied by fire and rescue personnel. “Even fire and rescue had to wait for the winds calm down,” she added.

    The newspaper’s website reported Saturday that the island had been slammed and 100,000 area residents were without power.

    One story began:

    Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island is under water. “It looks completely gone,” said Capt. Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sherriff’s Office.

    Teammate Tami Jann’s face showed the stress of the disaster. “I live by the Intercoastal Waterway," she said. "My whole first floor is gone.” She was asked if there was any way the storm hadn’t wrecked part of her home, she just slowly shook her head. Tami wondered aloud about another teammate’s home. “If the tree in front of the house comes down, it’s going to take the house with it.”

    Mark White spent more time watching his mobile feed than focusing on his team’s afternoon match. He quickly displayed the photo to the right, which was shared with the team this morning.

    There were mixed views on playing tennis while others deal with the storm.

    “Tennis is a good distraction,” Tami said. A few teammates echoed her statement.

    “It’s hard to focus on tennis when you don’t know what shape your home is in,” Jennifer Carlin added.

    While the island’s residents were told to evacuate, the tennis teams had some good fortune. “We are lucky that we had this trip planned and had hotel rooms. … Whether we play in the finals tomorrow or not, we will spend Sunday night here” in Chattanooga.

    When will the players head home? Pamela said they will wait and see. “We will know better when the water goes down.”

     

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